Here are the qualities I think humans possess, that I think define us:

  • Rational: we are not always rational, but we are capable of rational thought, and sometimes use it to (apparently :)) make decisions and weigh choices among each other.  Two humans acting rationally are capable of comparing their valuations and decisions.
  • Self-Aware: we are each aware that we are individuals separate from the world, and we recognize this quality in others; despite sometimes thinking “I am all there is, and everything else is in my head,” the default mode of thought about our surroundings is that humans are individuals separate from each other.
  • Empathetic: we have emotions, and can recognize emotions in others, and generate emotions in ourselves based on what we see in others.  I believe this also covers the fact that we are capable of choosing with whom we wish to associate and we become emotionally closer to those people.
  • Projection: we are capable of imagining ourselves in the shoes of other people; more than just analyzing rationally what others have chosen for themselves, we can put ourselves into their context (in a limited way, based on our own knowledge) and actually MAKE the decision for ourselves (or, if you prefer, our personal echo of that individual) internally.
  • Adaptable: we have a huge capacity for changing ourselves with respect to our environment, and with respect to other humans.  I like to think of this as “no natural environment” for humanity – we make our own environment (change the world to fit us) or make ourselves adapt to our environment (change ourselves to fit the world) wherever we go.
  • Unlimited: I don’t think there’s any limit to what humans are capable of accomplishing – and that includes transcending physical laws (if it is possible to do so, a question that can’t really be answered by systems of thought bound to physical laws) given enough time (e.g. time travel, teleportation, FTL travel, etc.).  This is a combination of the power of human communities, adaptability and our capacity for rational thought (the two together mean that even in areas where rational thought is not enough, humans are capable of somewhat irrational “leaps forward”).

I was just musing on some of these qualities individually, and thought I should write them down.